Today I went along to see the film Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears. This is a movie worth watching. Having read the book earlier this year, ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee’ by Martin Sixsmith, I already knew the storyline and was prepared for a real tearjerker. Instead I came away angry and disillusioned. The film was good. It told the story clearly and well. Frears also included some fantastic funny bits. Ryan Air even got a mention. One couldn’t help but laugh out loud many times.
But one also couldn’t help but shed a tear on more occasions. And angry rose inside so many times. It’s impossible not be angry when you see and hear what really happened at Roscrea, Tipperary. Based on real events, Philomena tells the story of Philomeana Lee, an Irish woman living in England who set about in 2004 tracing her son Anthony, who was taken from her 50 years previous at a convent in Tipperary. Judi Dench plays Philomena and co-stars Steve Coogan as journalist Martin Sixsmith. The duo are very engaging and embark on a journey of reconciliation of a personal sense of injustice and seeking some kind of redemption.
The young Philomena visited a fairground one night and met a handsome young man. She fell pregnant after the encounter and she later described the sex as amazing and it remained a lasting memory throughout her life! At the convent where she gives birth, the agonising labour she entailed was deemed God’s way of punishing sinners. A wealthy American couple arrive to adopt her son when he is 3 years old and Philomena isn’t even in the room when the deal is done. She watches as he is driven away from her forever.
Her search takes her to America where she learns of his death 8 years previous. It transpires her search was parallel with his. He never forgot his mother or where he came from.
Philomena exposes the arrogance, the cover ups, and the lies of the Roscrea convent. It is an emotional account of one womans search for her son. And made more harrowing knowing that so many are in the same situation. It poses a lot of questions and leaves a lasting memory.
This is certainly not a Catholic bashing film, but the church does not walk away unscathed. Morals are questioned but redemption is achieved to a certain extent. Philomena can now visit her dead son. But so many questions remain unanswered. Can redemption be fully achieved with such a story? I believe not. But it’s up to each individual. It tears at my heart. As a mother I can’t even begin to imagine what Philomena and many others like her have lived through. Watch for yourself and decide!
Judi Dench is outstanding in her role as Philomena and Coogan is brilliant.